Lilizela Awards 2017 begins with celebrating the best in KZN tourism

2017-09-08 10:00 - Kavitha Pillay
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Cape Town – We’ve been revelling in South Africa’s vast tourism products and offerings for Heritage Month, Tourism Month and the start of Spring 2017.

And while we exude our love for Mzansi and all that it offers travellers, credit must be given to those organisations and individuals who ensure that local and international visitors get the best experiences and take home memories that last a lifetime.

One sure way to give solid credit to the country’s best in the tourism sector is through the prestigious Lilizela Tourism Awards - which began with provincial award ceremonies on Thursday night, 7 September, in KwaZulu-Natal’s Richards Bay, recognising the province’s best tourism products and services for 2017.

ALSO SEE: Lilizela Tourism Awards 2017 submissions now open

Running for a fifth year, the annual ceremony acknowledges and celebrates accommodation establishments and other tourism-related products and services in South Africa.

Categories of the awards include service excellence, sustainable development and entrepreneurship, as well as accommodation establishments, tourist guides and visitor attractions in the tourism industry, among others.

Provincial finalists drawn from more than 1 600 entries

An initiative of the National Department of Tourism and South African Tourism (SAT), the provincial finalists from the nine provinces were drawn from more than 1 600 entries, “exceeding last year’s tally by almost 50%” according to SAT. Click here for the full list of provincial finalists.

Tourism Minister Tokozile Xasa says that “Being selected as a Lilizela Tourism Awards finalist means you are among the best of the best in the country” and thanked all finalists for their contribution to SA’s tourism industry, which proves to create employment, encourage entrepreneurship and acts as a driver for other sectors of the economy.

SEE: Tourism as an economic driver: Here’s what Africa should be doing

“The Lilizela Tourism Awards are our way of thanking our dedicated travel industry for their hard work in setting the bar high and helping to make South Africa such a highly regarded must-visit destination, for local and international tourists alike,” Xasa says.

KZN’s award ceremony

KZN announced the names of 45 provincial finalists at the Awards ceremony on Thursday night, hosted by the MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Sihle Zikalala.

Among finalists in the accommodation category included 5-star game lodge, Karkloof Safari Spa and 5-star country house, Days at Sea Beach Lodge, while winners included Ezulwini Guest House that received the Emerging Tourism Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and Syavaya Tours which took home the MECs Award.

The Universal Accessibility Awards went to Access2Africa Safaris and the Emerging Tour Operator Award was taken by Bonana Tours.        

However, a firm favourite for travellers is the Visitor Experience Awards which went to the following tourism establishments:

  • Big Rush - Action & Adventure
  • AKTV Natalia Beach Resort - Beach Experience
  • Splashy Fen Music Festival - Culture & Lifestyle
  • Kaarkloof Safari Spa - Lap of Luxury
  • uShaka Marine World - Marine Adventure
  • Talana Museum - Roots & Culture
  • Midlands Meander - Scenic Beauty
  • Amakhosi Lodge ( Pty) Ltd - Wildlife Encounters

Check out highlights from the glitzy event that took place in KZN:

“Excellent service serves as a basis of growing our provincial tourism sector. If visitors receive great services here, they will keep coming back to KZN and will also serve as our ambassadors who will spread the word about our destination back home,” says Zikalala.

He adds that the Lilizela Awards encourages tourism establishments “to continually provide world class, authentic, memorable experiences to local and international travellers” which will foster “a more sustainable tourism sector.”

The remaining 8 provincial awards ceremonies will take place as follows:

•            Mpumalanga on 8 September

•            Free State on 14 September

•            Limpopo on 15 September

•            Northern Cape on 18 September 2017

•            Western Cape on 19 September

•            North West on 20 September

•            Eastern Cape on 21 September; and

•            Gauteng on 29 September.

The national winners, drawn from these provincial champions, will be announced at a gala event in Johannesburg on 29 October.

How winners are selected

The awards are adjudicated through a public vote and judging panel - with 80% of the scores from consumers and 20% from judges.

The public vote includes data from the Tourism Grading Council of SAT’s Analytics Programme which consolidates user reviews for establishments with an online presence, along with public votes on the Lilizela Tourism Awards website.

The judging panel includes 30-members - made up of industry professionals and travel practitioners - who evaluate accommodation establishments, tourist guides, tour operators, facilities for meetings, exhibitions and special events. “Exceptional visitor experiences in an array of categories were also assessed,” says SAT.

“Particular attention was paid to emerging black-owned tourism start-ups and small enterprises, as well as to establishments that have taken steps to improve their universal accessibility status, by welcoming and accommodating guests with special needs such as physical disabilities,” says SAT.

SEE: #SAHeritage: Breaking down tourism barriers

SATS Chief Executive Officer, Sisa Ntshona, says an annual review will follow each awards ceremony and that the criteria for the awards “are constantly being refined, through ongoing consultation and feedback surveys, to ensure that hospitality establishments, venues, service providers and tourism attractions meet industry and traveller requirements.”

He says that sustainability and contribution to inclusive growth have become important considerations in the adjudication process as there is a “growing need for sustainable and responsible practices in all tourism enterprises”.

What to read next on Traveller24:

Lilizela Tourism Awards 2017 submissions now open

Township Tourism: Why SA should value and invest in places like Khayelitsha

Tourism as an economic driver: Here’s what Africa should be doing